ATS encourages a growth mindset for co-op students to reach their full potential

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Two students working in a manufacturing plant

By: Krista Henry (she/her) 

When it comes to engaging emerging talent, like co-op students, Automation Tooling Systems (ATS) creates an environment for students to learn, innovate and grow their skills.

A global leader in automated products and services, ATS gives co-op students the freedom to work on cutting-edge projects. Students learn new skills while making an impact at ATS working in roles such as environmental, health and safety co-op, software developer, mechanical automation designer, engineering coordinator, HR co-op, videography student, visual communications and service solutions specialist.

D’Arcy Oldfield (he/him), Control specialist at ATS
D’Arcy Oldfield (he/him)
Control specialist at ATS

“We have students doing programmable logic controller (PLC) programming, HMI development and much more,” says D’Arcy Oldfield (he/him), control specialist at ATS. “We usually have a bunch of different programs and projects. I try to find out what the student is strong in and tailor a project for them which benefits us both.”

The organization believes in giving students freedom to innovate which helps to build their confidence in the world of work. According to Oldfield, giving students the tools to succeed can yield surprising results.

“One of the co-op students that I had working with me didn't have a lot of PLC experience. He just gravitated to it and picked it up so quickly. I told him what I wanted and when I checked back in, he had something put together which was impressive. When he first started, he wasn’t familiar with any of the systems,” he says.


Building a talent pipeline 

For ATS, one of the many benefits of having a robust co-op program is the opportunity to attract the talent they will need for the future of their work in all areas of the business.


Waterloo gives us the opportunity to preview a potential employee which is a great benefit. Students get to learn about our environment and compare us with other companies to know what they are most passionate about. Waterloo is very consistent and
easy to work with.


Anna Guan (she/her) is a former co-op student that has transitioned to a full-time role at ATS. Three years ago, Guan did a co-op term at ATS as a mechanical designer. Today, Guan (BE’21) is a product specialist in ATS’ innovation center. Recently, the company has put a deliberate focus on innovation to get ahead of evolving technologies in the marketplace. This helps the organization to provide solutions for the challenges their customers are facing.

“When I was a co-op student at ATS, the project I was doing was very close to my studies. I liked using the formulas and equations that I learned in school,” she says. “It was really challenging and fun. At ATS there are lots of cool projects for future generations and I liked the team, so it was an easy decision to return.”

Throughout her co-op experience, Guan worked with several industries like steelmaking and other forms of manufacturing.

Anna Guan (she/her), Product specialist at ATS
Anna Guan (she/her)
Product specialist at ATS


Through her experiences, she quickly realized her strengths, weaknesses and what she enjoyed working on. “At ATS’s innovation center I get a lot of experience as a mechanical engineer,” says Guan. “I want to expand my skills set in this area, which I can do at ATS. It’s a good decision for me to come back and work with these colleagues again so I can continue learning.”